Manufacturing Trends Noticed at Hannover

My Website traffic dropped significantly during the week of Hannover Messe in April. As an independent thinker/writer, I cannot afford such a trip unless I can find a sponsor. There were none this year. I do enjoy Hannover. It’s an intense few days walking about 10 miles a day.

I did view it from afar through press releases and other websites and correspondence. Two analyst firms that I trust sent me their thoughts on trends seen at the show. It is important to note that both are European (does England count as European?) and one is German. There is a decided emphasis that way that might be missed in the US. They have a few different issues. Interact Analysis and IoT Analytics each had several analysts in attendance. The links are to their reports for greater depth about companies covered. I should note that I have worked with IoT Analytics in the past but have nothing going on with them now.

Interact Analysis, analysts Blake Griffin, Brianna Jackson, Tim Dawson

Over the years, Hannover Messe has evolved to include an ever-broadening range of products and companies. Despite the wide range of technologies on display, an emphasis on energy efficiency and flexibility emerged as the central theme of the 2023 show. As more sustainability-conscious legislation, such as the Net-Zero Industry Act and the EU’s Eco-Design Initiatives, are being enacted, industrial automation technology is being pushed to evolve to support these efforts. Additionally, we continue to see increasing emphasis placed upon flexibility within intralogistics. Both of these trends were on prominent display throughout the fairground. In this insight, we aim to highlight the products on display that we believe most clearly represent the current status quo within the industrial automation markets we cover.

Against the Backdrop of High-Electricity Prices Across Europe Energy Efficiency Technology is Paramount


While motor drives are inherently an energy efficiency device, new models are pushing this idea even further. Nearly all drive vendors that exhibited at Hannover Messe were displaying models of their drives which provide additional efficiencies to the system through features like regeneration, harmonic mitigation and electronic bypass. 

Motor Vendors – IE4 & IE5 Technology:

2023 is a big year for the low voltage motor market, particularly in Europe. In July of this year, the EU Eco-design Initiative will mandate that motors between 75kw and 200kw carry an efficiency level of IE4 at minimum. This represents the first time IE4 efficiency levels will be required in any region. In preparation for this legislation, many vendors of motors had their high-efficiency capabilities on display at Hannover Messe.

Despite the standard not being properly defined yet, many vendors were going beyond IE4 to show their IE5 capabilities. 

Battery Manufacturing and Recycling – Festo

According to the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, Europe comprised 41% of new investment in lithium-ion battery production in 2021. However, legislation from other regions, such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, posed a threat to European industries, with the US act incentivizing European manufacturers to expand their operations within the US. Europe’s answer to this is the Net-Zero Industry Act, which aims to push the EU to produce more of its technology domestically and localize supply chains. As a result, battery manufacturing in Europe is expected to see increased investment in order for the continent to remain competitive globally.

Smart Conveyance Technology

Alongside energy efficiency, Interact Analysis has also provided substantial commentary about new entrants shaking up the supplier landscape for smart conveyance technology (here). 

Final Thoughts

The focus for Hannover Messe has shifted over the years to incorporate a broader range of technologies, and it can be difficult to find common themes across products as a result. However, flexibility, energy efficiency and sustainability were clearly identifiable in the products on display across the industrial automation halls. This perhaps speaks to the strengths of these trends across Europe. While energy prices and supply chain woes remain a concern, you can expect continued emphasis to be placed on solutions like the ones we observed at Hannover Messe 2023.

IoT Analytics

1. Modularity is becoming the top theme for future manufacturing

Almost all exhibitors somehow highlighted the need for modularity and interchangeability.

2. Hardware platforms are consolidating

The lines between PLCs, IPCs, gateways, and other hardware devices are further fading as powerful multi-purpose chips such as the new Intel 13th gen Raptorlake CPUs become the go-to compute platform across devices. At the same time, hardware devices become smaller while integrating more functionality inside that separate devices (e.g., I/O master functionality) used to be handle. Another notable, recent change is the addition of AI acceleration across the hardware stack so that companies can run AI interference (mostly for vision use cases at this point).

3. Decoupling of hardware and software is gaining momentum

To the surprise of many at the fair, the world’s leading industrial automation vendor Siemens announced a “virtual PLC” software offering that is completely decoupled from proprietary hardware. This announcement marks a paradigm shift for industrial automation as it allows Siemens control software to basically run on any third-party (standard) hardware. Siemens is not the first to announce such an offering (e.g., Schneider Electric, BoschRexroth, Beckhoff, and Codesys have done so before), but it shows that the market leader is further opening up and getting ready for a truly software-defined automation stack.

4. More and more IT technologies are coming to OT

There is a push toward using an IT-style approach (e.g., low-code, integrated development environments and containerization) to configure/engineer/deploy OT applications and control logic.

5. The industrial metaverse is starting to take shape

HMI 2023 saw a revival of the “industrial metaverse.” While it had become quiet regarding the usage of the term leading up to the fair, a number of companies presented their vision of the industrial metaverse, including Microsoft, Siemens, CapGemini, SAP, and Schneider Electric. We noted that the visions were clearly not aligned, with some putting augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) into the center, whereas others clearly excluded AR/VR. In all cases, the industrial metaverse was, to a large degree, a new marketing term for an existing set of technologies. The most common denominator was the fact that digital twins played a key role for all companies, with some saying that the industrial metaverse is the next step in that journey.

6. There is a strong push toward sustainability

At last year’s Hannover Messe (2022), we highlighted how sustainability had entered the fair as a key theme. This year, we noticed a lot more “meat to the bone.” We came across a considerable number of solutions to help companies track their carbon footprint, driven in part by new ESG regulations such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

7. Generative AI is being implemented in manufacturing

With generative AI unarguably the #1 buzz in tech right now, the first applications in manufacturing were visible at the fair.

8. Interoperability focus is shifting from assets to data

Discussions at the fair showed how specific asset connectivity technologies such as OPC-UA, IO-Link, or MQTT have become or are in the process of becoming global interoperability standards. With such standards establishing themselves, at the same time as AI and data are taking a much bigger role in many digital transformation initiatives, the focus is shifting away from standards to connect assets toward data format standards and architectures.

9. DataOps is maturing

Making data interoperable is one side of the coin, whereas ensuring manageability in day-to-day operations is the other. Therefore, unsurprisingly, we noted a lot of interest for vendors (often start-ups/scale-ups) that promised to manage and optimize OT data streams. These vendors target the severe need for high-quality data without spending too much time on preparing/cleaning the data.

10. Wireless connectivity on the shopfloor is becoming a reality

Shopfloor control operations are traditionally performed using wired/tethered connectivity between sensors/actuators, IO devices, controllers, and other compute platforms. However, HMI 2023 revealed that wireless may be becoming a viable alternative in some cases.

Cyber Integrity Software Update Released

I’m still catching up from the flurry of press releases in April and early May. This one from Hexagon Asset Lifecycle Intelligence and from the PAS group they acquired a couple of years ago. The new version is PAS Cyber Integrity 7.3. Updates include:

  • Delivering an enterprise-wide, holistic image of multiple risk domains with a clear understanding of vulnerabilities and enhanced risk-based decision-making
  • Utilizing proprietary risk scoring to rapidly identify risks in the environment of greatest concern while simultaneously considering the vulnerabilities and patching level of various assets
  • Precisely identifying systems at risk of penetration or exploit and providing meaningful and actionable data regarding risk level, vulnerabilities for remediation and the associated patches and upgrade paths providing the highest value
  • Prioritizing risk-reducing and vulnerability remediation activities that shrink the attack surface and quickly providing paths that reduce the greatest risk, with the least amount of effort

Honeywell and Borealis Collaborate for Process Simulation

’m still catching up on a bit older news. One of the benefits of all this digital and digital twin conversation concerns simulating processes. These have uses ranging from training to improving processes. This news concerns a collaboration between Honeywell UniSim and Borealis.

Honeywell announced that Borealis will implement Honeywell’s UniSim Live software as early adopters to build process models for optimizing operations through virtual process simulation. UniSim Live will allow Borealis to extend the utility of process models to near real-time process monitoring and focus on early event detection by using digital twins to improve plant reliability.

Based in Austria, Borealis is a leading international provider of polyolefins, base chemicals, and fertilizers, and also one of the world’s largest producers of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). The organization continues to invest in new technology and digitalization tools to improve processing capabilities and efficiencies as part of its Borstar program to optimize and transform key operations.

Process models are digital representations of a plant and its processes. They are commonly used for designing process equipment or for training operations staff. UniSim Live’s advanced process modeling  detection capabilities are helping Borealis detect and mitigate issues that can impact plant performance. The collaboration with Borealis builds on Honeywell’s 20-year efforts associated with the Abnormal Situation Management consortium, whose charter is to improve plant safety and reliability.

Rockwell Automation and The Water Council Unite to Promote Water Stewardship

Catching up on some older news. Water is an essential resource with growing scarcity in many areas of the world. Several years ago, political scientists were predicting wars occurring over water rights. Any work by automation companies to help the situation are welcome.

This news is from Rockwell Automation announcing a “novel” partnership with The Water Council to promote corporate water stewardship globally.

“As global organizations with headquarters blocks away from Lake Michigan, The Water Council and Rockwell Automation understand the vital importance of protecting the world’s freshwater resources,” said Dean Amhaus, TWC president and CEO. “We are proud to partner with a fellow Milwaukee organization to help companies improve their water stewardship.”

TWC, a nonprofit solving global water challenges through innovation and water stewardship, and Rockwell Automation, a global automation company dedicated to making the world more productive and sustainable, will coalesce each other’s strengths to promote stewardship services and technological solutions to businesses across their networks. This will be accomplished through WAVE, TWC’s corporate water stewardship program, and Rockwell’s water-related sustainability products and services.

“Through our global reach and joint commitment to enabling sustainability, we are delighted to take our partnership public with The Water Council,” said Tom O’Reilly, global vice president, sustainability, at Rockwell Automation. “With The Water Council’s WAVE program and Rockwell Automation solutions, we are dedicated to driving impact within organizations to improve their water stewardship through consultation, data driven insights, and digital transformation solutions.

The partnership will include informational webinars on the importance of water use and risk assessment for businesses, incorporation of Rockwell’s sustainability offerings as a solution for TWC water stewardship clients, and identification of Rockwell clients to adopt WAVE.

Introduced in 2022, WAVE is the first independently verified program that helps companies combine enterprise-wide water stewardship goals and policy with meaningful site-level action and credible ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting.

“With a rapid and extensive escalation of water challenges across the world that threatens business continuity, companies are rightfully facing increasing expectations from investors and customers to be responsible water stewards. This partnership between TWC and Rockwell will help them do so,” Amhaus said.

Thoughts on Electricity Generation Tech

Note: This post was originally sent via my newsletter. You can sign up here.

I’m installing solar panels to generate electricity to charge my new Ioniq 6 electric vehicle. Conservation efforts of various kinds have long occupied part of my volunteer efforts. So, going electrical when circumstances convinced me it was time for a new car, it was a no-brainer to go for electric.

Not all electricity is clean energy. Some is generated by coal—decidedly not a clean energy source. Some is generated by oil or gas. Hydro-generation is much better. Wind and solar are clean (mostly), but each has drawbacks.

As much as many carbon activists are suspicious of nuclear fuel, that is a viable clean energy option. And it’s a great potential employer of process automation professionals.

These thoughts from Bill Gates just came my way:

I’ve long believed that if we want to fight climate change, we have to bet big on nuclear. No other source of clean energy is as reliable, and no other source of reliable energy is as clean. That’s why I’m in Kemmerer, Wyoming today: to celebrate a new type of nuclear power plant that’s going to be built here—one that’ll be much safer and produce much less waste than conventional reactors.

I’m also here to celebrate Kemmerer. The coal plant at the heart of this town of 2,700 will be retiring soon, and the 100+ people it employs would lose their jobs if it weren’t for this new nuclear facility. Kemmerer and Wyoming are focused on the future and welcoming nuclear—and the employment opportunities it’ll bring—in.

Years from now, when books are written about how we fought back against climate change, I have a feeling Kemmerer will be central to the story. Until then, you can read about the town, its people, and the creation of a new type of nuclear plant on my blog.

I love to see technologies evolve things for the betterment of society (all of us). People have a drive to see the worst in every technology that comes along. But, so much technology has provided so much benefit. No matter what surveys promote, we are living better than people did 100 years ago. I think we would like to continue to find ways to live better. Think on this.

Sandvik Engineers Use AI to Generate Art

Combining a couple of recent memes in a new way, this article I received through a marketing person I’ve known for more years than either of us will admit to takes a refreshingly positive look at AI.

Crafting works of art from metal isn’t anything new. Many of us would instantly think of the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, while those versed in contemporary art may think of the Chicago Picasso or Sir Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North. But how would one go about combining several famous works of art using stainless steel and artificial intelligence (AI) to create a new type of modern masterpiece? When Sandvik Coromant engineers Henrik Loikkanen and Jakob Pettersson were tasked with creating an AI-generated, stainless steel synthesis of some of history’s most famous works of art, their metal cutting expertise was put to the ultimate test.

In partnership with Sandvik Group, Sandvik Coromant has developed a statue for the history books. Made using AI modeling and cutting-edge manufacturing solutions, the sculpture combines the dynamic poses of Michelangelo’s work, the musculature craftmanship of Auguste Rodin, the somber tones of Käthe Kollwitz, Kotaro Takamura’s Japanese influence and Augusta Savage’s inspirational defiance to unite some of history’s most famous artists from a period spanning 500 years.

Weighing 500 kilograms and standing at 150 cm tall, the Impossible Statue was officially inaugurated at Tekniska Museet, Sweden’s National Museum of Science and Technology, in April 2023. Producing a statue in such a way has never been done before. So how did Loikkanen, Pettersson and the team craft this blend of art and science, past and future?

When AI meets art

AI has been around for some time, with intelligent machines tasked with performing activities that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, language translation and problem-solving. Its concept dates back decades, with the earliest program written in 1951 by Christopher Strachey, later director of the Programming Research Group at the University of Oxford. But the emergence of new, conversational AI programs such as Google’s Bard and ChatGPT open up even more applications of the technology.

Today, the achievements of AI seem almost limitless — it can even create art. After establishing a 2D design that brought together the styles of the five artists, Sandvik began translating the model into a complete 3D image. Using depth estimators to build the 3D model, human pose estimators to refine the body, video game algorithms to generate realistic fabric and specialized AI to reintroduce fine details that were lost in previous steps, Sandvik was ready to turn the design into reality. Using Mastercam software, a design for a statue with over six million surfaces and complex details was converted.

There were some unique challenges involved in the statue’s design. “We needed a phenomenally precise digital simulation to help us machine the statue,” revealed Henrik Loikkanen, Technology Area Manager at Sandvik Coromant. “Digital manufacturing means we can prove out that whole complex machining process beforehand. The only time we spent on machines, therefore, is actual production time. It also meant we didn’t produce a single scrap component during the entire project.”

Machining the impossible

After finalizing the statue’s design with AI and virtually simulating optimal ways to manufacture the statue using digital twinning, it was time to commence machining. “We treated producing the statue as we’d treat machining highly specialized, complex parts like those found in the aerospace industry,” continued Loikkanen. “An additional challenge came from the statue’s chosen material — stainless steel from Alleima — as ISO M materials are notoriously difficult to machine. The material group is characterized by its high work hardening rates and poor chip breaking properties during machining. Careful attention, therefore, must be paid to the tools selected for machining the material.”

Sandvik Coromant chose several tools to help sculpt each intricate part of the statue. The Coromant Capto® tooling interface was used to connect the arm and head to the torso of the statue, solid round tools from the CoroMill® Plura and Dura families were responsible for finishing all the statue’s surfaces and features, and CoroMill MH20, a high-feed milling cutter launched in 2021, was used to machine the bulk of the stainless steel removed from the workpiece.

“We have more than 10,000 standard products covering drilling, milling, reaming and threading in our back catalogue,” explained Jakob Pettersson, CAM and Machining Specialist at Sandvik Coromant. “But we couldn’t select just any tool to create the Impossible Statue. To pull off such a manufacturing feat, we needed to be laser-focused in our selection.”

“We had to give the method and tooling selection extra thought in order to use as little tooling as possible and thereby limit waste. Rough machining of the statue was done with a mix of solid carbide end mills from the CoroMill Plura and Dura families. The rough profiling of the final shape had to be made with rather long tooling. Here, a combination of MH20 high-feed cutters mounted on heavy metal shanks was the perfect fit. The use of end mills from our solid round tools offering greatly sped up the process and therefore reduced energy consumption.”

The CoroMill MH20’s ability to machine at long overhangs typically makes it beneficial to the aerospace sector. It’s designed with difficult-to-machine components in mind and, in contrast to the conventional four-edge concept, the MH20 is designed with a two-edge insert. This is especially beneficial as it means the weakest section of the insert is far away from the main cutting zone, delivering greater reliability and protection against wear. It also means that machining against a corner or wall will not impact the next edge or leading corner, ensuring an equal performance per edge.

CoroMill Plura HD is Sandvik Coromant’s first choice solution for heavy-duty applications in steel and stainless steel, offering safe and efficient solid end milling. The tool now comes with an added benefit in the form of Zertivo™ 2.0 coating, developed by Sandvik Coromant’s R&D team to improve process security and productivity even further. CoroMill Dura is designed to be a one-for-all tooling solution. The end mills can be used in all processes needed to produce a component ― including roughing, finishing, semi-finishing and ramping.

A manufacturing masterpiece

Naturally, machining the impossible isn’t without its challenges, and the team made several adaptations to its machining strategy. “The initial 3D model was not the type of model CAD/CAM systems can work with,” said Loikkanen. “It had to be converted from a 3D-mesh model, which is essentially a shell of surface polygons commonly used in 3D animation studios, to a solid 3D model with density, and that was a pretty challenging process. Once completed, the model was sectioned into 17 pieces, and all interfaces between them had to be modelled with a tight fit to make the intersections invisible when the parts were put together. It took time to get everything perfect.”

“We also had some challenges during rough machining due to the size of the component in relation to the machines,” added Pettersson. “This was solved by simulating NC-code and finding all the areas where we would reach the machine work envelope limit and by altering the CAM sequence.”

In the end, a statue that seamlessly blends the works of five artists was made possible. But developing a never-seen-before statue wasn’t the only accomplishment for Sandvik Coromant. “Along the way, we implemented several techniques that can be applied to future digital machining projects,” said Loikkanen. “Because of the pure amount of programming work, building the statue would have been impossible without a digital twin. All the testing was done digitally to save a huge amount of time that would otherwise be spent on trial-and-error testing. This is certainly something we can apply in future projects to save time and reduce the number of scrap components.”

“The programming and simulation process became faster and faster for each component,” added Pettersson. “Machining took about the same time throughout, mainly because the cutting data and tooling selection never changed that much. This point brought me to one conclusion: the extensive product data and recommendations we give are accurate and are easily attained either from our website, tool guide, Tool Library or even integrated directly in CAM systems themselves. Surely, this is of great value to our customers and addresses one of the more work-intensive tasks in closing the digital loop around CAM programming.”

Now on display for art and technophiles alike to admire, the statue serves as a reminder of the creativity both digital and physical manufacturing tools can accomplish. “I’m incredibly proud we’ve pulled this off,” concluded Loikkanen. “Hopefully those visiting Tekniska Museet, and anyone else who sees that statue, can appreciate that it’s an artwork like no other.”

“The techniques we used and the methods we employed really show what Sandvik Coromant can do,” added Pettersson. “We truly know metal cutting, even when tackling a challenge nobody’s ever seen before.”

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